EV Calls on Governor to Approve Juvenile Justice Rules; Protection for GLBT Youth in Limbo for Almost Two Years

Richmond, VA - In a statement released on the eve of Equality Virginia's annual Commonwealth Dinner, EV's Executive Director, James Parrish, called on the Governor to approve regulations that would continue protection of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (GLBT) youth in residential facilities overseen by the Board of Juvenile Justice and operated by the state Department of Juvenile Justice Services. "It has been almost two years since the Board of Juvenile Justice first approved in final form regulations governing residential facilities that would continue protections against discrimination for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender youth," said Parrish. He continued, "It is our understanding that the final regulations approved by the Board in June 2010, July, 2011 and, again, in January 2012 remain in the Governor's office for review almost 700 days since they were first approved by the Board for publication in final form.  Further delay in publishing these rules is unwarranted and exposes GLBT youth to possible harm in institutions where ambiguity in the commitment to prevent discrimination can be mistaken for license to engage in such behavior. It is past time for the Governor to act and for the regulations to be operational." Equality Virginia's Legislative Counsel, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, appeared before the Board of Juvenile Justice Board at its meeting in Richmond Wednesday night, April 11, 2012, to urge the Board to "continue to stand up for and with GLBT youth in your residential facilities," and "to take a stand and seek publication in the Register without further delay of the final rules governing residential facilities that this Board has approved three times over the last two years." Gastañaga said that Equality Virginia "continues to be grateful" that this Board and the professional staff of the Department of Juvenile Justice recognize the vulnerable position of the youth in their care who are GLBT and their ongoing need for protection from discrimination in non-residential and residential programs operated under the Board's purview. Gastañaga pointed out that rules governing non-residential programs, approved without objection by the Governor and effective since July 1, 2011, specifically protect youth in those programs from discrimination based on sexual orientation as well as discrimination based on other immutable and non-immutable factors including age, ethnicity, national origin, color, religion, sex, and physical disability.  The nondiscrimination provision is at Section 6VAC35-150-490 (Section 490). She also underscored that the rules governing residential programs in effect since 2005, which the rules now awaiting the Governor's approval would replace, also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.  That nondiscrimination provision can be found at 6VAC35-140-50. Finally, Gastañaga, a former Chief Deputy Attorney General of Virginia, advised the Board that the executive review process now holding up publication of the rules approved by the Board of Juvenile Justice does not comply with the Administrative Process Act, specifically, Section 2.2-4013. B. of the Code of Virginia.  She said that the process of executive review now being followed amounts to a pocket veto by the Governor that is in direct contravention of the letter of the law and the spirit of the public participation requirements of the Administrative Process Act. Founded in 1989 as Virginians for Justice, Equality Virginia is the only statewide, non-partisan education, outreach and advocacy organization seeking equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Virginians.